Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

Old Abner, Live Music, Adventure, Toys, Spaceships and More

The PopCulteer
March 12, 2010

Dogpatch Blues

One of the worst-kept secrets in town over the last few months has been the just-officially-announced “Reunion” production of the musical “Lil Abner” that is supposed to take place this fall. Kanawha Players, an organization that’s been dealing with some pressing money and organizational issues of late, has apparently signed on to stage this musical at the behest of Charleston’s Mayor, Danny Jones (right). Jones is putting up the money for the production, but there’s one big string attached.

Danny Jones wants to reprise his role as Lil’ Abner. A role he played on stage before….in 1986.

I believe that, by the time the projected play dates come around, our illustrious Mayor will be 60 years old. The title character of “Lil’ Abner” is supposed to be 18. Now this should just be a fun little news story about our goofy mayor and his latest misadventures, but it’s taken a darker turn, and I have a personal stake in it.

I found out about this potential train wreck because my significant other, Melanie Larch, played Daisy Mae, the female lead, in 1986. Melanie is proud of her part in the 1986 production, since it was the first of many lead roles she’s played on stage. Last year she was approached by Kanawha Players and declined any involvement with this production. Mel has too many personal and professional commitments right now, and doesn’t see any point in trying to relive the past. She also has severe misgivings about pitching this as a “reunion.”

“Lil’ Abner” was a lot of fun for Mel. She was singled out by reviewers as being one of the best things about the show. She’s very proud of her first leading role, but she had real doubts about trying to stage a reunion at this late date. Many of the principal players are deceased. Everyone has gotten older. Mel is fully aware that she has aged (gracefully, I would add) too much to reprise her role in any credible production. For the last few months she’s had to deal with her fear that her name would somehow be dragged into this project. She wants to see Kanawha Players rebound and thrive, but she’s afraid this production could do more harm than good to their reputation. She wants it to be clear that she is not involved with this show.

Melanie is one of Charleston’s top stage performers, having appeared in lead and featured roles in everything from “Little Shop Of Horrors,” to “Carmen,” to “Jack The Ripper.” She’s worked with everyone from Kanawha Players to The West Virginia Symphony Orchestra to The Charleston Stage Company and The Charleston Light Opera Guild. Recently she’s been enjoying her time with The Contemporary Youth Arts Company, with whom she is currently gearing up for a role in “Romeo and Juliet.”

She’s very proud of what she’s accomplished and wouldn’t want to do anything to tarnish her past achievements. So Melanie declined to participate in this “reunion.” I’ve been told that January Johnson-Wolfe, the original choreographer, was also approached and also declined any involvement.

Mel has very warm feelings for Kanawha Players. Even though she made it clear to KP that she would not participate in this production, she decided to keep her concerns and doubts to herself, so that it wouldn’t reflect poorly on the organization.

However, this week, now that the cat’s out of the bag, KP has committed a major faux pas. Without bothering to check with Melanie, they released photos of her with our mayor from the 1986 production to promote the “preview” performance of the show that they’re doing for the Haiti benefit this weekend. This is a blatant misrepresentation. Melanie is not involved at all in this show.

For the record, she’d love to see KP try a fresh take on “Lil’ Abner” with an all-new (appropriately-aged) cast, but thinks it’s unrealistic to hog the stage and play a teenager when you’re old enough to be the character’s grandparent. It was rather distressing for her to see her image used, with no warning, to promote something she’d passed on.

(And as an aside to the Daily Mail: This was front-page news? Really? I mean….really?)

It’s simply wrong for KP to use photographs of Melanie from the old production when they know full well that she isn’t going to be involved with this new production of the show. It’s deceptive, and it could mislead people into thinking Melanie will be on stage, or even endorses this “reunion.”

Kanawha Players is crossing a line when they call this a “reunion.” It’s not. You can’t do a reunion of a show when the original female lead is not involved and the second female lead is dead. KP should stop referring to this as a reunion, and they should stop using Melanie’s image and reputation to try and sell it. That’s dishonest marketing. If they want to be honest they should bill it as “Danny Jones’ return to the stage.”

Jones claims that he’s doing this out of the goodness of his heart. He heard about KP’s money trouble and wanted to help. If he really wanted to help, he’d just cut them a check for twenty-five grand, instead of using it to finance a show that will only make money if enough folks in town are so overcome by morbid curiosity that they go to see it for all the wrong reasons. I’m sure he can get KP a deal on the rent of the Civic Center, but it’s questionable that he can fill it up for three weekends.

I understand that our mayor had a wonderful time doing this show nearly a quarter-century ago, but there are limits to how far you can go to relive the past. If he missed everybody so much, he should have had a reunion cookout. Danny’s a nice enough guy. He’s done some great things for Charleston. It’s doubtful that we’d have FestivAll if not for his support and encouragement. I don’t want this to seem like I’m joining the chorus of people who just like to dump on him.

“Lil’ Abner,” the classic musical based on Al Capp’s successful comic strip, was a big party for him, among the best moments of his life–I get that. However, there are a lot of 60-year-old guys who really enjoyed playing football. You don’t see them buying a team just so they can take the field and play again.

As it is, Jones is just providing fuel for his critics. His recent behavior with the Charleston Area Alliance has left the impression that he’s petty and vindictive and maybe just a little bit divorced from reality, and his delusions about being able to reprise this role have not improved the perception of him as an erratic attention-seeking loose cannon at all. Image-wise, he couldn’t make a stupider move. He’s done so much good for this city that it’s a shame to see him run around acting like a cartoon of himself.

This is a lose-lose situation. The best possible thing that could come out of this would be that Mayor Jones will surprise everyone and deliver an amazing and convincing performance….as a dim-witted muscle-bound yokel. That’s hardly going to do anything to boost the reputation of West Virginia’s largest city. I dread the possibility that the national media would glom onto this story.

The saddest thing about this whole situation is that the people who are involved will tell you upfront that it’s going to be a disaster because Jones is way too old to play the lead, but Kanawha Players is going to go ahead with it because Danny Jones is footing the bill and they’re going to use it as a fund raiser.

Now it could be that the folks at KP are playing a clever game of lowered expectations. At the rate they’re talking down this production, if Jones manages to not break a hip during the run, it’ll be considered a moral victory. The board at KP needs to ask themselves if it’s worth it to risk the reputation of this long-lived Charleston cultural institution by renting themselves out to put on a vanity production for any wealthy donor who comes along with enough cash.

There is a way for everyone involved to save face. If, after the benefit performance this Sunday, Mayor Jones has a sudden epiphany about how ridiculous the idea of him playing Abner is, and if he decides to finance a new production of “Lll’ Abner” with a new Abner and Daisy Mae….and maybe Mayor Jones in the more appropriate role of General Bullmoose, then this could work out well. More people would pay to see a realistically-cast version of this entertaining little show than would pay to see a sad display of someone trying to recapture a former glory.

I hate to see KP derail what has become a major creative comeback. I raved about their recent production of “12 Angry Men,” and I think their night of Avante-Garde theater and art was one of the most exciting events I attended last year. They are still in a precarious position due to lawsuits and other issues. I hate to see them have to resort to such mercenary measures as this in order to stay afloat.

RFC Stars Live On Stage.

If you want to see some of the performers that you’ve enjoyed on Radio Free Charleston perform live, then this weekend you’ll have plenty of chances.

Friday night you can catch Lady D’s remarkable tribute to Bessie Smith at 7:30 PM at the Women’s Club of Charleston, 1600 Virginia St. E. Admission is $25 and includes a buffet dinner. Call 304-590-1042 for more information.

That same night you can make the rounds to catch several RFC faves at local bars: The Scrap Iron Pickers will be at The Empty Glass in support of Treasure Cat and Satchell. Brain Trauma and Friends will be at The Blue Parrot. Future RFC guests, Buckstone, will appear at Bruno’s. Steve Himes Connection (you saw them backing up Marcie Bullock) will be at Sam’s Uptown Cafe. And finally, our most recent guests, Mother Nang, will be playing at The Boulevard Tavern. All shows are advertised to start at 10 PM (wink, wink) except for the Bruno’s show, which will start at 9 PM. Cover charges range from nothin’ to somethin’.

Saturday night Ric Cochran and friends, will be at The Bridge Road Bistro (no cover) at 7:30 PM, while Civil State will be at The Blue Parrot at 10 PM ($5). The Diablo Blues Band will be at The Boulevard Tavern at 10 PM, I’m not sure of the cover charge, but I’m guessing it’ll be five dollars or less.

Young Auteurs On The Loose.

Friday night at 7 PM three student films will premiere at The Capitol Center Theater: Jan Bezouska’s “Clockdown,” Miriam Kajamovitz’ “Diary Of An Aching Heart,” and Michael Sydenstricker’s “Provident.” In addition to the scheduled films, there may be an extra trailer or two. After the screening, a gathering of filmmakers and audience will take place at Capitol Roasters, across the street.

The Adventure Team Is Back, And They’re Small!

The Adventure Team is almost here! The Official GI Joe Collector’s Club will be offering an assortment of 3 3/4-inch Adventure Team figure sets, all utilizing retro sculpts. Each figure comes packaged with a special accessory (vehicle, etc.) inside an “AT Mission Crate” package. Once you open the “AT Mission Crate,” you’ll find each figure on its own individual blister card. The first three sets are: AT Air Adventurer & Helicopter; AT Land Adventurer & 6-wheel ATV; Dr. “Venom” & AT Commander with giant man-eating plant. This is the first time that the classic Kung Fu Grip Era GI Joe will be produced in the 1980s-style 3 3/4-inch scale. Click here for info on how to join the club and get these way-cool action figures.

Cool Comic Of The Week

IDW, in their monthly title, Starstruck, is re-presenting a lost classic of science-fiction comics. This title, created by Elaine Lee, with gorgeous artwork by Mike Kaluta, started life as an off-Broadway stage play in 1980, written by Lee with Norfleet Lee and Dale Place. The play featured designs by Kaluta, and was staged again in 1983.

Lee and Kaluta first adapted it into comic form in 1982 for Heavy Metal.

This is where the rather convoluted publishing history of Starstruck begins. That series was reprinted in 1984 by Epic comics, who then followed it up with a six-issue mini-series. Lee and Kaluta would later re-print this work in a series with added material, as “Starstruck: The Expanding Universe,” published by Dark Horse Comics in 4 issues marked as “Volume 1”. At the time Dark Horse had planned to add 8 more issues  consisting of 320 pages of new material with older material, unfortunately those plans fell through.

A related series of stories starring the “Galactic Girl Guides” appeared as back-up strips in Dave Steven’s “The Rocketeer Adventure Magazine” from Comico Comics in the late 1980s.

Starstruck is set in a bizarre alternative future. Billed as a space opera, Starstruck follows the offspring of two powerful houses as they vie for wealth and dominance in a universe that is newly freed from the Incorporated Elysian Republic. Populated by characters such as Baron Bajar and his son Kalif and daughter Lucrezia, the story recalls Shakespeare, if he’d collaborated with Douglas Adams.

Lee’s complex story makes for a very rewarding comic-reading experience. The visuals are beautiful, thanks to Kaluta’s art, but Lee’s story provides more than simple eye candy. There are strong female characters, exotic settings and lots of alien landscapes on which to play.

The Galactic Girl Guides stories, of which two-thirds are previously unpublished, features Kaluta’s pencils inked by accalimed fantasy artist Charles Vess. These are stories of the childhood adventures of Brucilla, a major player in the series.

Starstruck is scheduled to run 13 issues, which will finally collect the entire series, which was scattered throughout several different published incarnations. I’m certain that IDW will collect these stories into deluxe hardcovers and affordable softcovers at some point. In addition to the newly-expanded artwork and previously-unseen Galactic Girl Guides stories, each issue is packed with text features that provide extra background material.

Lee and Kaluta’s Starstruck is a singular comic book experience. It’s taken almost thirty years to present it in a form that it deserves, but it’s worth the wait. This is good stuff.

Next Week in PopCult

You know the drill. Sunday Videos, Monday Art, Friday PopCulteer. Possibly a follow-up to our lead story from today, if I’m still allowed in the city.


  1. Steven Allen Adams

    It’s kind of like William Shatner wanting to play the lead in the next Star Trek. It’s stupid.

  2. Tym Stevens

    Thanks for heralding STARSTRUCK, the deepest illustrated epic out there! Smart art for hip people. If your readers like LOST, Star Wars, Monty Python, or Riot Grrrl, this book is an avalanche of riches; Catch up to the better revolution in comix, and check out STARSTRUCK!

  3. Longtime Listener

    It’s been a long time since I’ve been motivated to comment. Not a knock on your work–I still read PopCult every day, but it’s gotten harder to leave comments.

    However, I couldn’t let Danny’s latest escapade go without notice. Aside from the way they screwed over your girlfriend, the whole thing is just pathetic. it makes KP look like the streetwalkers Danny used to brag about running off the streets.

    And I guess that would make him the John.

    Keep up the good work, Rudy.

  4. Bella Dona

    Sounds like the Emperor has no bib overalls.

  5. Mountain Woman Phd.

    It sounds like there’s a severe shortage of integrity over at Kanawha Players since they had the coup.

    Dealing with them has become intolerable. I wish they’d sell their building to a group that has their act together. It’s nice to have a smaller theater on the East End, but KP has burned so many bridges that it might as well not even be there anymore.

  6. Matt Salazar

    Dollar Danny acting like a jackass? And this is news how?

    Beautiful artwork on the comic book. You should have run more of that than the photo of Mayor McCheese.

  7. Mexican Romeo

    The Adventure Team as little Joes?


    But not as absurd as a 60-year-old Little Abner. Will they have Stupifyin’ Jones come out in a walker and say “See anything you like?”

  8. A REAL KP supporter

    Mr. Panucci: You have one thing right on your article- you have a personal stake. The Gazette should never have allowed you to use newspaper space to conduct a personal vendetta for your girlfriend. If Miss Larch is so supportive, she should be gracious and keep her mouth shut. Believe, me. No one came to see the first little Abner because of her. You act like she is God’s gift to Charleston’s stage. Unbelievable! I don’t know how she gets her head through the door.
    She can sing, but act???? If she could look another actor in the eye on stage instead of her roving eyes looking all around, maybe she could hone her craft. From my understanding, this is a fund raiser- period. Not something up for Tony awards. Ms. Larch, and you, need to get a grip!

  9. Rudy Panucci

    It’s amazimg what people will write when they mistakenly think that they’re protected by the anonymity of the internet.

    To Jeanann, the “Real KP Supporter,” I’m a little surprised that you would go to such lengths to stab someone in the back who thought you were a friend.

    I realize that Melanie has probably won most of the roles that you both went out for over the years, but that doesn’t excuse you saying that “No one came to the first little Abner because of her.” Mayor Jones is on record as saying that it was one of the most successful shows in KP’s history. I’m sure the glowing reviews Mel received had a lot to do with that.

    This was not a vendetta. I have no axe to grind with KP, and in fact, just a few weeks ago gave them one of the most favorable reviews in their 88-year history for “12 Angry Men.” I have supported them in the past and will do so in the future.

    This was simply me setting the record straight. Mel is not involved in the planned revival of “Lil’ Abner.” She was asked more than once, and declined. Therefore it can not be a true reunion.

    Melanie did plan to keep quiet about this, until KP decided, after being asked to keep her name out of all promotion for this show, to release her photo to promote it.

    Mel garnered rave reviews for Abner, and since then has continued to recieve kudo after kudo for her many starring and featured roles on stage. For you to cast aspersions on her talent reeks of desperation. It’s hard to tell whether it’s professional jealousy, sour grapes or damage control for KP. Maybe it’s a little bit of all three.

    Whatever your motives, I stand by what I wrote, 100%. And I don’t try to hide behind a psuedonym.

  10. Longtime Listener

    Bring the hammer down, Rudy! 🙂

    Does that moron even know that your column is web-only? What a pathetic sock-puppet attack dog? I notice nobody wants to use their real name when defending KP. They probably don’t want to get sued by the contractors that got stiffed.

  11. BlueJay

    A true KP Supporter wouldn’t go around bashing people for writing their opinions on a situation. KP needs no more bad publicity surrounding thier name. A true supporter of KP would let their actions speak on thier own.
    Who ever this person is that thinks that they are helping KP out in anyway by voicing such a negitive comments on one of the best local performers in Charleston is sadly mistaken. All it proves to me is that KP is still in danger of having to shut their doors forever which would be a loss to the theatrical community in the area. But if this is the kind of support at the heart of thier orginization then they have to be in trouble.

    You attract more friends with honey than Salt

    And Danny Jones needs to watch what he says in public. There are ears everywhere!

  12. Mountain Woman Phd

    I can’t believe what I just read here in the comments. For the record, I do not know Rudy or Ms. Larch. I have left comments on this blog, and have traded emails with Mr. Panucci when the comments weren’t working, but I do not know either of them personally.

    However, I was lucky enough to see Ms. Larch perform in “Carmen” with the West Virginia Symphony Orchestra and in “Jack The Ripper” and “Mary” with The Contemporary Youth Arts Company. She was amazing in all three shows. her stage presence and talents are unmatched in the Charleston area. For this “REAL KP Supporter to say such dishonest and hateful things about her abilities is outrageous.

    I have seen her perform, and Melanie Larch IS God’s gift to Charleston’s stage.

    I agree with BlueJay. That comment reflects very poorly on Kanawha Players. If their way to react to honest criticism is to kill the messenger, then I will rethink whether or not I will ever support that organization again.

    I loved “12 Angry Men” and was looking forward to “A Raisin In The Sun,” but I don’t know if I want to give my money to a group that would throw such a talented performer under a bus to try and make themselves look good.

    What is wrong with the leadership at KP to make them pull a stunt like this?

  13. bbg

    The Kanawha Players should not have used Mel Larch’s image in their promotional materials, especially since she asked them not to. Not to mention that she is not part of the so-called “reunion” show… the show that isn’t even a real reunion!

    It’s also sad and disappointing that the KP would reject young new talent just to give an old rich guy his jollies by letting him use their stage. KP couldn’t present Lil Abner featuring all fresh faces? Mayor Moneybags would have done more for the group by encouraging them to branch out, than to steal the spotlight for himself.

  14. Charelston Marley

    That snotty, petty, vicious comment from “A Real KP Supporter” pretty much confirms everything Rudy wrote.

    I wouldn’t be shocked it it turned out to be from a paid employee of Kanawha Players.

    Rudy’s piece was fair, objective and far kinder to our Mayor than I would have been.

    And everybody knows that Mel is one of the top talents in this town. Kanawha Players owes her a couple of apologies: One for using her photo in a dishonest way, and another for this pathetic and incompetent attempt to smear her.

  15. wicked hagatha

    “True KP Supporter” Why don’t you take your own advice? Be gracious and keep YOUR mouth shut.

    You chose an adversarial stance. What are you going to do? Tear apart anyone who doesn’t agree with you or think this is a great idea? You willing to run away other genuine Kanawha Player supporters that DON’T agree or might offer other ways to make this ACTUALLY work out. Your way or the highway?

    Yeah, because that sure is what the Kanawha Players’ really needs. More negative exposure.

    I’ll be staying tuned to see how this pans out.

  16. wicked hagatha

    Well, I need popcorn. So much for anyone being gracious now. What a shame.

  17. wicked hagatha

    Well, now – where is the popcorn?

  18. Steven Allen Adams

    Holy smokes!

    Melody, it’s a common rule of thumb that if your comment is longer than the blog post you need to start your own blog.

    Blog being an operative word, because this is a blog. By a guy who has spent the bulk of his career supporting local arts. When Rudy writes I take notice.

    Either way you rambled. But let’s be clear: this post of Rudy’s was not a personal slam of the mayor or KP. Anyone familiar with Lil Abner has to scratch their head at a 60+ man playing the role of an 18-year-old. Or wonder at a “reunion” show when you don’t even have then entire original cast.

    Is the mayor a good guy? Beats me, but that wasn’t the issue. There were two issues: mayor using his money to relive glory days, and the misuse of a picture for false advertising. Rudy wasn’t inappropriate and alerted readers to his personal stake in the second issue. He didn’t go off on a diatribe; he had logical, valid points.

    It does seem apparent that you took this personally though with your mile-long diatribe. I enjoyed 12 Angry Men, I plan to see Raisin in the Sun, but I will not be seeing Lil Abner.

  19. Jeanann Leone

    Ok. First of all I was not trying to hide behind an alias. I have never responded to a blog before, and I noticed that the posters were calling themselves nicknames like you see here today- “long time listener”, “Mountain Woman PHd”, “Mexican Romeo”, etc. These, I believe, are not real names, so I just followed suit thinking that was the protocol. I think it is interesting that you have chosen to call out my name and none of the others who have posted under nicknames.

    Enough is enough. I am sorry, Melanie, that I spoke in anger, and I do apologize. A lot of people have been working very hard to make this show a success and to help KP. It is just disheartening to see all these efforts criticized. The point is to make money and save this wonderful organization. Why try to ruin a project that just may help? I just don’t understand the reasoning.

    I feel that this was not something that needed to be blown so out of proportion and published in the press. I did have knowledge of all of the conversations that were held with Melanie,and that everything was done to try to spare her feelings.

    I think it is time to end it right here, and we will all just agree to disagree on this subject and move on.

    By the way, Rudy, I haven’t tried out for parts that Melanie got- so no sour grapes there. I haven’t even done theater for many, many years as I was taking care of my elderly parents and no longer had the time.

    I am not a paid employee of Kanawha Players nor have I been asked by Kanawha Players to write to this blog. I am just an individual expressing my opinion as the rest of you have done.

  20. Kevin Pauley

    I’m not getting into the debates here. Just wanted to say two things:

    1. I had a great time working with Mel in The Crucible and Jack the Ripper. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for the world and would welcome another chance to work with her again instantly.

    2. On behalf of the cast/crew of “12 Angry Men,” I just wanted to thank all of you for the positive comments here and for supporting a true labor of love in honor of a great man and on behalf of a still worthy organization.

    That is all.

  21. Rudy Panucci

    Lots of things happen when you’re away from the internet overnight.

    First, I had to have a comment deleted this morning. It was from the publicist for this reunion show, and it contained many points which I would gladly refute–However, those points were buried in a 4,500-word tirade that was poorly-written, nearly incoherent, and quite frankly, an embarrassment. I deleted it as an act of kindness toward the author, who I invite to resubmit her points if she can do so in a concise and readable manner. A comment of that length strains the capability of this blog, being three times longer than the original post, so it had to go. Sorry about that. I have left subsequent comments that refer to that post in place, in case you were wondering.

    To Jeanneann, normally, it’s bad form to “out” a commenter on your blog. The exception is if you do it to expose what is called a “sock puppet.”

    A “sock puppet” is an identity created to leave comments on the internet that further an agenda or viewpoint with which the true author is afraid to be identified.

    In your case, since I have heard from multiple sources that you are a member of the Lil’ Abner reunion committee, and are slated to be either the assistant director, or co-director of the play, I felt that my readers deserved to know who you were. Feel free to correct me on those points if I’m mistaken.

    If it weren’t your intention to hide your identity, if your weren’t too cowardly to say the things you said about Mel to her face, then you shouldn’t have any problem with me unveiling who you are.

    You called my ethics into question, even though I fully disclosed my relationship with Melanie at the beginning of the piece, yet you withheld your personal stake in this production.

    I felt my readers might find that to be entertaining.

    As for the criticism of this proposed revival being “disheartening,” I was merely putting into print the feelings of the vast majority of the Charleston theater community.

    People have come out of the woodwork thanking me. Ouside of the people who are actually involved in making this show happen, I can’t find anyone who thinks it’s a good idea. Hell, a lot of the folks at KP are mortified by it.

    Melanie made it clear from day one that she did not want to be involved with this production. She spent an hour on the phone with Melody Ison resisting her efforts to try to get Melanie to compromise her principals and say she approved of the project. Melanie stood her ground and asked to be left out of any discussions of this revival.

    Out of respect for Mayor Jones and the people involved, Melanie planned to remain silent. She asked me to pull a post I wrote lampooning the idea last year. It was only when her photo was released to The Daily Mail, against her wishes, that she said it was okay for me to address this matter. That was the last straw and it was tearing her up.

    While I feel that Melanie has been greatly wronged, treated shabbily by people who she thought were her friends and put through ridiculous amounts of stress over this, even if I had no connection to the story I would think the idea of a 60-year-old Lil’ Abner is beyond ludicrous. If anything, you should thank her for holding me back. I think this could make Mayor Jones and possibly the entire city a laughingstock.

    I’m not quite sure if your apology was for what you wrote, or the fact that you got caught writing it. It’s up to Mel to decide whether or not she accepts it.

    In my original piece I offered the Mayor a way out–a way to extract himself from the problem while still helping KP and maintaining his dignity. I sincerely hope he takes my advice and doesn’t let this fiasco taint his many accomplishments as Mayor.

    Among the bits of information that have come my way since this story broke is the notion that Mayor Jones may have been mislead by the “reunion” committee. Apparently, as recently as a month ago he was under the impression that Melanie was on board. That means that the people who discused this with Melanie never saw fit to relay that information to the man writing the checks. I don’t think Mayor Jones would approve of the attacks on Melanie, so I hope he takes action to see that they stop.

    Right now, despite the petty slurs, resentment and pure hatred she’s had to endure over this, Melanie is the only person involved in this mess to maintain her dignity and integrity.

  22. Rudy Panucci


    You make some fair points, but in my defense, this blog is called “PopCult.” I write about popculture things, like plays, art, movies, comic books, live music, etc. When you ask if there are more important things to blog about…well, you’re sort of missing the point of the entire blog.

    The issue of the play is two-fold. One, it’s a ridiculous idea. Two, the people promoting it are trying to exploit the likeness of someone very close to me in a less-than-honest manner.

    The people involved in this production knew, or should have known, Melanie’s opinion, and they should have respected her wishes. Instead they chose to use her image to promote the show, and thenpost hurtful comments when she objected.

    You say you lost thirty minutes reading this? You should have seen the comment I deleted. You’d still be slogging through it, if you had the stamina. Sorry you didn’t care for this post.

    But check back Friday. We’re doing a photo essay on ArtWalk.

  23. cc

    I read the blog and thought the reunion sounded pretty ridiculous. Then I saw the teaser scenes at the Haiti benefit. It wasn’t that bad – it was kinda cute, in fact. I think it could be a good fundraiser for KP, although when Ms. Larch declined involvement, they should’ve just left her out of it.

  24. Longtime Listener

    Is there anywhere we can go read the deleted post? It sounds hilarious.

  25. Adrienne

    I hardly ever post comments on things I read, however, I feel the need to
    comment on this blog. Although I agree with a lot of the points made, I feel
    I’ve wasted 30 minutes of my life I can’t ever get back by reading all of this.
    I’m quite a bit younger than probably all of the people commenting on this blog,
    as well as the author, and even I find this immature. Aren’t there more
    important things to not only blog about, but worry about? Yes Danny Jones is WAY
    too old and ridiculous to play this part. But,who cares? Yes KP probably
    shouldn’t have used Melanie’s picture without her permission. But, who cares?
    None of this is really that serious. Let the Mayor waste his time, energy and
    money on this. Then, when it comes time, don’t vote for him. I can’t believe
    such a HUGE deal is being made about a little play in Charleston, WV. Mr.
    Panucci, no disrespect intended, but you DO seem to basically be making this
    whole thing about a picture of your girlfriend. This seems so drama!
    tic “hatred she’s having to endure”. It seems to me that a better way to
    handle this would have been for your girlfriend to contact KP, ask them to not
    print anything else, and perhaps publish something apologizing to her. But to
    write a huge blog rant seems so ridiculously dramatic and unneccessary. And
    before you say anything, NO I have no affiliation with anyone, anywhere. I just
    love art, music and theatre and happened upon something written by Steve Adams
    that referenced your blog, so I thought I’d read it. I’ll probably read it
    again, but hopefully it will be about genuine things happening in town and not a
    ridiculous bashing session.

  26. Adrienne

    I really didn’t miss the point of your entry. I just flet it was excessively
    long and dramatic for the issue at hand. Everything could have been addressed in
    one paragraph.
    I definitely agree with you. The “reunion” is ridiculous. The whole thing
    reminded me of shows like “Saved by the Bell” in that the actors were in their
    late 20’s or so, playing parts of teenagers. Thats what I thought of when I saw
    that the Mayor would be playing that part. Only this instance is WAY more
    ridiculous than the cases of tv sitcoms.
    I also understand the issue with your girlfriend, but like I said, I think there
    are better ways both parties involved could handle things. When things are blown
    out of proportion, it keeps snow balling and getting out of control. Sometimes
    it’s better to just say what you want to say, then leave it. Advice I obviously
    don’t follow! ha!
    Also, I will definitely check back on Friday. I LOVE ArtWalk and attend every
    month. I’ve been looking foward to its return for months!
    I was not taking a stab at you as a writer or your blog in general. I applaud
    anyone who takes the time to write about the arts, especially in Charleston.

  27. Danny Jones

    If given the opportunity, I could give the chronology of events that led to the Lil’ Abner production. I think it might straighten out some misunderstandings and factual innaccuracies in the original article. My intent is to try to help KP through some very tough financial times and perhaps not have the city wind up with another big empty building on the east end.

  28. Lee Harrah

    Well, I can’t say I’m interrested in this production, for many reasons, I think it’s admirable that the Mayor Jones is putting up the money for the production, but I think the people involved with the program should be more interrested in hosting fresh, young talent for this project & give it the respect it deserves.
    Being a fan of Lil Abner from when I was a child alot of people will be seeing him for the first time, & it SHOULD be done correctly.

    Now, on a personal note……….

    for others to criticize someone for their honest-to-God integrity to the production, performance, and to the organaziation she’s been involved with is downright, disrespectful, juvenile, slander & should not be tolerated, there is a level of respect people should have towards each other, but sometimes I’ve learned the hard way it’s really too much to ask from most people. What a shame all the same.

    So to Mayor Jones I wish the best of luck in reprisal to the production, I hope everything works out.

    To Mel, keep your head up, there will be always another production that you will be doing and I’ll be looking forward to seeing in the future, that is, if I’m not performing myself.

    With respect and reguards,


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